The Port Authority’s network of bridges and tunnels is one of the most heavily used systems in the nation, providing a vital link between New York and New Jersey. Comprised of six major crossings, these bridges and tunnels form the heart of the region’s commercial infrastructure. Quite simply, regional growth and economic development wouldn’t be possible without them.
It all started in 1921 when the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders began an initiative to have a bridge or tunnel built across the Arthur Kill. This led to separate laws being passed by the states of New York and New Jersey authorizing the Port Authority to undertake the necessary studies leading to the building of three bridges in Staten Island: the Bayonne, Goethals and Outerbridge Crossing.
On June 29, 1928, both the Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge opened, marking the successful completion of the then-fledgling Port Authority’s first bistate development project.
The beautiful Bayonne Bridge and the iconic George Washington Bridge soon followed. Years later, Port Authority general counsel Julius Henry Cohen was asked why start with the smaller Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge, rather than the more majestic Bayonne and George Washington bridges.
His reply was prescient. "We wanted to begin with something where we were most likely to succeed, and the smaller enterprise was the better one for the purpose. If we succeeded, the George Washington Bridge would surely come later." Which is exactly what happened.
In 1931, the Port Authority acquired the Holland Tunnel four years after it was first opened to traffic. The tunnel was the world’s first mechanically ventilated underwater vehicular tunnel. The methods used to design and build it still form the basis of the construction of underwater vehicular tunnels throughout the world. In 1993, the Holland Tunnel was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior.
The Port Authority followed this success with another when New York and New Jersey authorized the agency to proceed with its plan to build what was then called the Midtown Hudson Tunnel, today’s Lincoln Tunnel. The building of the 1.5-mile-long structure was a big challenge-and a huge success.
The history of the bridges and tunnels of the Port Authority is one of hard work, service and success. We hope to continue to be defined by these traits well into the future.